Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Epilogue: Benjamin Lee 'Ben' Skinner, businessman, sailor with deep Dunedin roots

DUNEDIN — Fresh off a shift at Luekens Food Villa, Jim Davis, 18 at the time, walked along the seawall at the Dunedin Marina. Without any sound, a sailboat glided by, quickly came about at the seawall, inches away from hitting it.

The captain was Ben Skinner and the boat was the Mexicana, a Morgan 34.

"Ben tacked, said 'hi,' and then went back out," recalled Davis, 61. "It was a vision. I realized I wanted to get to know him better. He could make that boat go.''

Mr. Skinner died on Aug. 17. He was 95.

On the day he died, Mr. Skinner, an accomplished sailor, businessman and devoted community member whose family's roots in Dunedin go back to the 1800s, had spent several hours enjoying the wildlife outside his home on Bayshore Boulevard. It was the home he had lived in for more than 50 years, where he and his wife, Angela, who died in 2004, raised their five children.

"He loved his house, being outside and looking at the water. That day (while in a wheelchair) he fed all the herons and crows and ducks and watched the birds at the special bird feeder he made where the squirrels couldn't get in,'' said his daughter Mary Narine. "And the sunset the day he died over his water was the most beautiful I had ever seen.''

Mr. Skinner's grandfather, L.B., was a citrus grower and the second mayor of the city. He created equipment that helped wash, scrub, and sort the fruit swiftly. His father, Bronson, was also a renowned businessman in the citrus industry. He created an orange juice concentrate that led to the U.S. Government funding a concentrate plant in Dunedin during World War II.

After earning a chemical engineering degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Skinner joined the family enterprises in 1945. In 1952, the family began another business, Allied Precision Products, which Mr. Skinner headed until its closing in 2011.

A recipient of the Dunedin Senior Hall of Fame Award as well as a History Maker Award from the Dunedin Historical Society, Mr. Skinner's name is synonymous with "the history of how Dunedin was developed,'' said Vinnie Luisi, Dunedin's historian. "The family did so much for the area. Along with the development of their machinery, for years the Skinners' businesses brought jobs to the area.''

Mr. Skinner was also an advocate for Dunedin's parks and waterfront. Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski first became friends with him through the Dunedin Boat Club, where they both were longtime members.

"He and his wife loved having people on their boat,'' Bujalski said. "He was a big advocate for Honeymoon Island and could tell you every curve of St. Joseph's Sound and how it got there and why the depths are different now.''

Although recently Mr. Skinner's activities have been limited, Bujalski recalled many instances in the mid-2000s of him appearing in front of the City Commission.

"I've been behind the dais for 11 years, and I remember getting nervous when I'd see him coming,'' she joked. "He paid attention to what was going on, and if there was something he was concerned about, he'd let us know.''

Mr. Skinner also had a boisterous sense of humor, Davis said.

"In his later years he'd joke and tell me he really had to go out and find a younger friend and back when the only way to reach someone was by radio when you were on the water, all of a sudden we would hear Ben's voice,'' he said. "My boat was named Camelot, and so many times I remember all of a sudden hearing, "Oh Camelot, Oh Camelot, where art thou Camelot?' ''

Perhaps Davis' favorite memory of Mr. Skinner was a trip to the Virgin Islands for the Skinners' 50th anniversary.

"He adored his wife, and he sent 26 of us letters, family and close friends, persuading us to join him, cruising the Virgin Islands,'' he said. "He told us he would never ask us for anything else.''

For two weeks, the group sailed on three chartered sailboats.

"We went from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the British Virgin Islands,'' he said. ''What an experience he gave us,'' he said.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Comments
Rays journal: Blue Jays spoil wild-card bid

Rays journal: Blue Jays spoil wild-card bid

TORONTO — There was no drama, no emotional rescues after Saturday's game.After feeling, appropriately, crushed after they gave away Thursday's game, blowing a six-run lead in the ninth, then bouncing back Friday, the Rays on Saturday faced a st...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jordan Cronkrite’s big run helps USF stay perfect with win over ECU

Jordan Cronkrite’s big run helps USF stay perfect with win over ECU

TAMPA — Whenever USF handed the ball to running back Jordan Cronkrite on Saturday night, a big play seemed close. The Bulls were just one block, one chip, one cut away."We knew it was coming," quarterback Blake Barnett said.Finally, with 1...
Updated: 5 hours ago
USF journal: Standout returner Terrence Horne out with torn ACL

USF journal: Standout returner Terrence Horne out with torn ACL

TAMPA — USF opened its American Athletic Conference schedule Saturday with a 20-13 victory against East Carolina, but it had to do so without the nation's top returner.Freshman receiver and return specialist Terrence Horne tore his ACL in pract...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Joey Knight’s takeaways from Florida-Tennessee

Joey Knight’s takeaways from Florida-Tennessee

For all their defensive opportunism Saturday, make no mistake: The Gators probably remain a year or two away from seriously contending again in the SEC East Division. Still, it beats the Vols, who appear a light-year or two away.Jeremy Pruitt confirm...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Matt Baker’s takeaways from USF-East Carolina

Matt Baker’s takeaways from USF-East Carolina

I figured East Carolina would either look amazing or awful to start, considering it spent the past week and a half in Orlando because of Hurricane Florence. Turns out the Pirates channeled their emotions well, scoring on their first possession and fo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
UF journal: A resounding return for LB David Reese

UF journal: A resounding return for LB David Reese

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Gator fans have spent the better part of September wondering if junior LB David Reese ever would get on the field.They spent the better part of Saturday hoping he'd never come off.Reese, whose 2018 debut was postponed by a hi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida extends Tennessee’s recent SEC futility

Florida extends Tennessee’s recent SEC futility

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On an evening in which Tennessee honored its 1998 national championship squad, the current crop of Vols managed to offset the whole nostalgic shindig.By making the 2018 Gators resemble a national championship-caliber club.A o...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning forward prospect Boris Katchouk putting together strong preseason

Lightning forward prospect Boris Katchouk putting together strong preseason

TAMPA — As the end of training camp looms, there's no clear-cut answer as to how the Lightning will fill the one, maybe two open forward spots in its lineup.It could go with Adam Erne. Spending much of his time in AHL Syracuse the past three se...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning journal: ‘No-risk’ forward pickup; another preseason win; Fan Fest on Sunday

Lightning journal: ‘No-risk’ forward pickup; another preseason win; Fan Fest on Sunday

TAMPA — It didn't take long for Lightning GM Julien BriseBois to decide he wanted to put a waiver claim in Friday.Not when he saw that F Danick Martel was available."He's a player we have had on our radar for a while, going back to actually his...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Deondre Francois throws 2 TDs as Seminoles hold off NIU 37-19

Deondre Francois throws 2 TDs as Seminoles hold off NIU 37-19

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State has been seeking improvement on offense after managing just 10 combined points in its two FBS losses. The Seminoles found some reasons to be optimistic for a turnaround on Saturday. Deondre Francois threw for a season-high...
Updated: 7 hours ago